Visa, the world’s leader in digital payments, today announced the winners of its She’s Next grant program in Egypt at an award ceremony in partnership with Commercial International Bank (CIB) and USAID. Under the initiative, five Egyptian women-led businesses in Egypt received a $10,000 grant and a year of business coaching from IFundWomen to help their businesses grow and expand, as well as media exposure and networking opportunities.
The five winners were selected from more than 150 applications submitted by Egyptian women entrepreneurs from a wide range of sectors, from textiles to education, food and beverage to professional services, beauty and wellness. Winners were selected based on the evolution of their entrepreneurial journey, the strength of their business metrics, their digital presence and their problem-solving skills.
The jury consisted of Malak El Baba, Visa’s Country Manager for Egypt, Hany El-Dieb, Head of Business Banking at CIB, Amr El-Khouly, Head of Business Banking Product Development at CIB, Leslie Reed, Egypt Mission Director at USAID, and Abeer Shakweer, Assistant Resident Representative for Inclusive Growth and Innovation at UNDP.
By participating in the program, all women entrepreneurs gained access to practical insights from female leaders in the public and private sectors, as well as valuable tools and educational resources – including Visa’s Practical Business Skills program – they need to grow and develop their businesses.
“In a world where businesses in general are struggling with the lingering effects of the pandemic and inflation, women-owned small businesses continue to prove their resilience and show great optimism about the future of their businesses,” said Leila Serhan, Senior Vice President & Group Country Manager – North Africa Levant Pakistan, Visa. “Visa recognizes these women entrepreneurs, their dedication and continued contributions to our communities, and is proud to support and spotlight them through our She’s Next initiative, which we are pleased to have brought to Egypt for the first time. These women have not only broken many stereotypes about the type of businesses women run but have also clearly demonstrated their ability to grow and scale. We would like to congratulate the five recipients and look forward to supporting them through these grants and the mentorship programme so they can continue to work and thrive in these uncertain times.”
Underscoring the importance of She’s Next initiatives, USAID Egypt Mission Director Leslie Reed said: “Despite progress, women’s salaries and career advancement opportunities continue to lag behind, when they are compared to male counterparts. In a male dominated world, being a female entrepreneur is both tough and admirable, and as we heard earlier, courageous.”
She added: “In Egypt, [the] numbers are even more challenging. Women’s participation rate for early-stage entrepreneurship is only 24%, and it drops to 15% when it comes to actually running an established business. Therefore it’s so important to support women entrepreneurs and work together through initiatives like She’s Next to change these statistics. We believe that women’s empowerment is about human rights and economic opportunity.”
Sherif Samy, CIB Chairperson, said: “In CIB, the largest private sector bank in Egypt, we frequently touch on many of the issues that are simply summarized in She’s Next, which is small and medium enterprise – recognizing the challenge for small businesses in particular. For which, CIB has a subsidiary focused on startups and more importantly empowering women as a key pillar of the workforce of the entrepreneurial set-up of Egypt.”
He added that “Banks are now encouraged to take steps in ESG and sustainable banking. Part of it is what we provide for women, which CIB electively chose to start this journey three or five years ago. As an initiative we signed a UN declaration for responsible banking and other commitments. This tells us that our management is taking it seriously.”
The 5 winners of the 2022 edition of the she’s next initiative:
1. Maryam El Masry, Greenhouse
2. Heba Abou El Eid, The Mommy Club
3. Rania Salah, GebRaa
4. Samira Negm, Raye7
5. Mariam Nezar & Laila Hasaballah, Bellies En Route
Two of the five winners will also go on to participate in a virtual event, “She’s next: Spotlighting Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East,” organized by Forbes Middle East and Visa. The event will feature female business leaders from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco, who will share their strategies for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.